Saturday, March 17, 2007

Looking back on 2 years with McKinsey

I've added tags to almost all of my posts now to make it easier for readers to browse my posts by subject. Just now, I browsed through all my posts about my time at McKinsey before coming to London Business School. It was beautiful to look back and think about what a crazy and enriching experience it has been, and also to think about all the friends I made there. I also think most of the things I am enjoying and looking forward to now are thanks to my time there - the benefits I earned through hard work, the brand name, the trainings, the coaching by Managers and Partners - in a way I can engage on a new path now and the path is much more rosy thanks to the effort I put in there. I was remembering what our global head Ian Davis said at one training:

"Being successful at McKinsey doesn't mean making partner. Being successful means that whenever you look back on your time with McKinsey later in life, you think it was the right thing to do at that moment of my life and I'm glad I did it"

But reading through these posts, you will also understand how different my life is now. I play tennis in the sun almost every day, I play football with the women's team, I go to Richmond Park, Hyde Park, Regent's Park a lot, I am planning lots and lots of holidays around the world, I enjoy trying out new restaurants, I sleep a lot, I have new friends from all over the world ... this definitely beats working 17h days!

Going to... Chicago GSB!

The exchange results are out. I have a place at the University of Chicago! Though it will be sad to leave London for 3 months, I still think I will go for it! My main reasons to go for Chicago GSB were:

- the academic quality, particularly in Finance and Economics
- the opportunity to take electives at other departments - particularly, I hope to be able to take a course in International Relations with John Mearsheimer - I highly recommend his book "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics".
- it's a really beautiful city with great shopping and outdoor opportunities
- my sister lives there

... what more reasons do you need? If there are any readers here from Chicago GSB class of 2008, please get in touch! I have a lot of questions :-).

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Is spring term really almost over already?

I have no idea how or why, but spring term is already drawing to a close. It hasn't really started yet and I feel we haven't done much, but it's over, and so is another chunk of my MBA. Time is racing ahead. How could spring term pass by so fast?

- Well, the first weeks were blurred due to the marathon of job interviews. We managed to squeeze in classes between one interview and the next, and half the classroom would be empty. Nobody really paid attention to classes. The only class we cared about was Finance, since we discussed Mergers & Acquisitions, Options and Foreign Exchange just in time for the interviews
- Then, the weather has also become quite mild and sunny in recent weeks. I went out a lot, running in Regent's Park, strolling around Hyde Park and walking around the East End
- Since we don't have classes on Fridays and had few assignments, many people went away over the weekends, so it has been quieter at school than in the first term

Wrapping up this term, I want to pick up on my first impression of spring term courses.

In classroom learning
Finance: as I said before, it was a great class and I look forward to Finance 2 next term, which will be more focused on options & futures, so it's a bit more abstract and I like that. Sometimes I wonder if I had been better of doing a PhD rather than an MBA since I realize I like the abstract stuff more than the applied practical stuff, but then I enjoy learning about a broad range of subjects, which you can't if you do a PhD

Discovering Entrepreneurial Opportunities
: the cases of start-up companies are great, since they give you a great feel of the insecurity surrounding entrepreneurship. I especially enjoyed the Spreadshirt Case, it seems to be a very cool company and I am happy they are succeeding. I am somewhat drawn to entrepreneurship, though I prefer to do it in 5 years rather than now

: I'm not sure how much I would learn in Marketing with an experienced professor due to the subject matter, but unfortunately I haven't gotten anything out of this class. My curiosity about Marketing may be of a more critical or sociological nature - I find it quite interesting to observe how advertisements reflect gender stereotypes, success stereotypes, how they promote "stupid consumerism" and so on. But this critical angle seems to be out of place in the classroom.

Managing Organisational Behaviour: again a course that could be extremely valuable but has disappointed so far. The cases are actually quite interesting, but the learning is a bit limited so far.

Decision & Risk Analysis: the teacher is quite good, but in the end the class is little more than applied logic and statistics, so if you know your probabilities and have worked with Excel before, you are unlikely to get much out of this course. One important learning I have gotten out of this course is the value of modeling in general though. Previously, I think I always considered modeling as a sort of lesser activity and avoided it whenever I could while I was working at McKinsey. In fact, I managed to spend two years there as an analyst without ever building a complex financial model. Whenever a new project was announced as "advanced excel modeling skills required", I would avoid it. Now, I really see the value in models, and believe they can actually be very useful for investment decisions. It may be obvious to most of you, but coming from a social science background I was quite skeptical about the usefulness of modeling before, and this has changed completely.

Out of classroom learning
I have enjoyed for the amount of spare time I have this term to pursue other interests and read myself. I am especially grateful to Patxi for recommending me the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Rich Dad). I wish I had read it 10 years ago, but it is never too late, and it is helping me tremendously seeing personal finances from a different angle. Since I know I will need to improve my financial modeling skills for the summer, I was happy to encounter the bookFinancial Modeling Using Excel and VBA (Wiley Finance) by Chandan Sengupta. It is one of the few books I have found that are actually useful for self-study, and I feel I can really use it to teach myself all I need. Another book that I would count among one of the best non-fiction books out there is Flow: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness by Csikszentmihalyi.

Other than that, I enjoy lunching and dining with my friends from school. Now is a time that you know who your friends are and you have had enough time to get to know each other closely. I have a lot of friends from other streams unfortunately, which makes hanging out a bit more difficult. Additionally, we know that time is passing too fast and that we will
soon be working in different places over the summer and then many of us will go on exchange, so we don't actually have that much more time to spend together anymore, surprisingly. Luckily, some of the nicest people from my course are going to spend their summer in the same bank as me, and many more classmates will be somewhere in the City, so it will be easy to catch up over lunch and dinner :-).

What is left of spring term? Not much. We'll have three exams or so, but they are in the softer subjects, so there isn't really anything to do. My main aim for the next weeks is to get ready for MBAT in Paris in May, so I want to play a lot of Tennis in Regent's Park. I also need to get fit very fast because I will go surfing in Canary Islands over the Spring Break, and last time I did surfing I was horribly unprepared physically, as I underestimated how fit you need to be to surf a couple of hours per day. Now I have no excuse and really need to get ready.